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GUIDE TO CARING FOR RABBITS

Rabbits can make wonderful pets if cared for correctly. Watching them run, jump and play is a real delight.

GENERAL CARE

Rabbits should be kept in neutered pairs or compatible groups, and never on their own - a male and female partnership work-best.

Rabbits suffer from stress and loneliness if kept alone and they value companionship as much as food. We do not recommend keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together as they have a different set of needs.

Pet rabbits should be allocated some of their owner's time every day as they enjoy attention, offering them a small treat is a great way to interact and build trust.

CHOOSING YOUR RABBITS

There are many varieties of rabbits available that vary greatly in size and temperament. Dwarf lop eared rabbits are very popular due to their appealing looks and docile nature. Although a Dwarf lop is smaller than English or French lops, they can still weigh more than 2kg when fully grown. Longhaired rabbits are less suitable as pets because they need daily grooming, which can be time consuming.

Rabbits should be at least 8 weeks old when you get them. When you buy new baby rabbits, feed them the same food they have been used for, alongside plenty of fresh hay and water.

HOUSING

Rabbits should be provided with a large, spacious cage, so they can comfortably stand on their hind legs. A hutch for outdoors should be sturdy, water-proof and raised off the floor by approximately 25cm.

Place the hutch in a sheltered position so rabbits are protected from all

weathers. A hutch cover, blanket or piece of old carpet will often offer added protection on cold nights. A house rabbit's cage should be placed in a cool room and out of direct sunlight and draughts.

Rabbits are active; therefore it is essential they are allowed daily exercise outside their cage, whether in a safe garden enclosure or a rabbit-proof part of your home. An outdoor enclosure should be secure enough to keep the rabbits in as well as other animals out.

An exercise area that is permanently attached to their hutch or cage, which allows rabbits to exercise whenever they please, is recommended.

A hutch or cage is not enough for your rabbits, and should be regarded as burrows to rest in as part of a larger living area.

An exercise run on the lawn will allow your rabbits to express normal behavior, such as running, digging, burrowing, jumping, hiding and grazing. It is important to be aware that your rabbits may dig their way out of a run, so make sure you move it regularly to prevent escapes.

Regularly moving the run will also allow your rabbits access to fresh grass.

If your rabbits' run is attached to their hutch and is unable to be moved, it is recommended to pave the floor and provide a digging box and plenty of fresh hay.

All hutches and runs need to be sturdy and predator-proof. Before purchase, check hutches and runs have bolt locks, not swivel locks and ensure the wire is strong.

Rabbits are prey animals, so they're naturally shy, quiet and usually dislike being held above ground level. Children should be encouraged to interact with them at ground level.

DID YOU KNOW?

Rabbits typically live for around 7-10 years, although sc can live up to 12 years old

BEDDING AND HUTCH MAINTENANCE

A hutch or cage should have a layer of absorbent bedding on the floor with plenty of hay or straw for nesting. Any bedding that becomes wet should be removed daily along with any uneaten fresh foods. A litter tray can be used in the latrine corner, which is easier to clean daily.

Hygiene is extremely important, particularly in summer. If not kept clean the hutch will attract flies and other undesirable pests, so it should be cleaned thoroughly at least once a week. Rabbits often use the same area for their toilet this means they can be trained to use a litter tray, which can be easily cleaned out daily.

Rabbits should be fed in a way that is as close as possible to their natural diet, which is mostly grass and hay. We also recommend providing some fresh leafy vegetables and a small amount of commercial feed.

A daily healthy diet should be:

  • 80% grass or hay. This should be available to your rabbits 24/7 from a hay rack if available
  • 15% leafy greens and vegetables, such as kale, carrots and broccoli
  • 5% commercial feed, approximately two egg cups

Hay provides rabbits with the fiber needed for a healthy gut and helps to prevent dental problems. Rabbits' teeth grow continuously and so hay helps to keep them at a healthy length.

A wide range of prepared food is available and many are formulated for rabbits of different ages or sizes. Be very careful not to overfeed as this can lead to obesity. Do not change your rabbits' commercial feed suddenly, as it can cause fatal digestive upsets.

A change in food should be done over a period of at least two weeks.

Fresh foods should be given in moderation. Baby rabbits in particular should only get very small amounts and contrary to popular belief, lettuce should be avoided. Suitable fresh foods include kale, spring greens, broccoli and dandelions. Fresh foods should be washed thoroughly before feeding and should not be allowed to become frosted. Anything that is not eaten should be removed regularly.

HEALTH CARE

Annual vaccinations against Myxomatosis and another serious disease known as Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD) are essential.

Unfortunately, it is very easy for rabbits to catch these diseases if not vaccinated.

It is important to have rabbits neutered as this helps prevent some behavioral and health issues, and allows for social groupings.

Pet rabbits should be registered with your vet and insured against unexpected veterinary costs as soon as possible.

It is recommended to check your rabbit underneath daily, especially during summer, to ensure they're clean. All rabbits are at high risk of fly strike, as flies are attracted to soiled areas around the rabbit's tail, where they lay eggs. If you suspect your rabbit has fly strike, contact your vet immediately. It is also recommended to find a rabbit-friendly vet.

Rabbits are traditionally kept in a hutch and run outdoors but are increasingly popular as house pets. If you decide to keep your rabbit indoors it is essential that your home is rabbit-proofed. Be aware of exposed electrical wires, other pets and plants - many of which are poisonous to rabbits. They also chew door frames, furniture and clothes, and so should be supervised at all times.

 SHOPPING LIST:

  1. Large outdoor hutch/indoor cage, specious enough for two rabbits to run and jump
  2. Hutch cover to protect from extreme weather
  3. large run or pen for the garden
  4. Commercial rabbit food and ceramic food dish
  5. Water bottle, bottle brush and water dish
  6. Hay or freeze dried grass for feeding
  7. Hay rack
  8. Hay or straw for bedding a Absorbent bedding
  9. Treats
  10. Toys and tunnels a Pet safe disinfectant
  11. Fly repellent
  12. Nail clippers
  13. Litter tray for indoor rabbits a Rabbit care book

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 means all pet owners have a legal dull of care to their pets. Anyone who is cruel to an animal or is found ne to be providing the five animal welfare needs, as listed below, can b fined and sent to prison.

The Five Animal Welfare needs:

  1. Environment: Pets should be given the correct housing according to its size, this includes shelter, space to exercise and a secure, comfortable place to rest.
  2. Diet: Pets should be offered the correct type and volume of food to cover all their nutritional needs alongside access to clean, fresh water.
  3. Behavior: All pets should be allowed to exhibit normal behavior patterns and should be provided with the facilities to do so.
  4. Company: Some animals require the company of their own kind, whilst others should be kept on their own.
  5. Health: All animals should be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease, and given veterinary treatment if they become sick or injured.